From The Bottom Up - Journeying Europe


May 10, 2018
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From The Bottom Up - Journeying Europe

Starting unemployed, without a single coaching badge to my name and my playing experience limited to just Sunday league football for a local pub team, I looked to embark on a football management career with only one thing...a dream!

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With all the lower ranked countries in Europe at my disposal, this would be my hunting ground to find a club that would give me the unlikeliest of chances to take the first step on the football manager ladder!

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It would be a case of pinging out my CV which demonstrated absolutely no football experience at all, but instead a background of 20 years in sales, and my target clubs were likely to be those with a 1 star club rating at best. I'd have to draw on all of my sales experience to convince someone to give me a job!

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Surprisingly, the first team I apply for actually invited my in for an interview. Swedish minnows Angered BK must be desperate!

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But it was Mikael Martinsson who bagged the job over me. I can't really complain as he has a much more solid profile than I do in all fairness!

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It wasn't long though before another lower league Swedish club agreed to see my for an interview and this time it did result in a job offer!

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I'm not in a position to be fussy and am just grateful that someone/anyone is willing to take a punt on me. Looks like I'm moving to Sweden to take over Vanersborgs FK!

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So let's take a little look at my first club. Vanersborgs FK play their football in the Division 2 Norra Gotaland, which is the 4th tier of Swedish football. A relatively new football club who were only established as recently as 1998, they are secure enough financially with a positive bank balance of £16k. As to be expected down at this lowly level, all of the facilities are extremely poor.

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The club have been playing at this level for 8 years now, since winning the league in the 5th tier back in 2014. However, they haven't finished higher than 5th and never really looked like moving further up the Swedish football pyramid.

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And as I take over at the club, they are bang in trouble this season, propping up the division with just 1 win from 17 games and sitting 6 points from safety! The team just above us is Angered who rejected me for their would be nice to beat them to safety for sure! I will have my work cut out if I am going to make an immediate impression in my first job. With just 9 games of the season remaining, we need to pick up wins and quickly!

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My first game in charge will be away, but my first home in football management is the 2000 capacity Vanersvallen. It's not the worst little ground in the world.


This tiny little club have just 704 social media followers...I've got mates with more than that!! Just 25 season ticket holders as well, who are expecting us to finish mid table this year....surely that's not what is expected of me at this point in the season?!

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Taking a look at my new squad, there is no shortage of players which is good to see and based on my assistant manager's opinion, we have a small number of stand out performers that I should be building the team around! The main concern at this point is the lack of a single left back in the whole squad.

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One of those is central midfield Jonas Emanuelsson who is easily the best player at the club. He has some fantastic attributes and the box to box midfielder has the mental stats to lead this team and we will need that leadership if we are going to get ourselves out of the current predicament with relegation staring us in the face.

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Meanwhile, Markus Johansson is likely to be our main attacking threat and he can play both the wide left or striker position. He is one of our pacier players up front and combined with his off the ball movement and determination, he can hopefully bag a few goals to move us up the table.

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The final player worth a mention is our goalkeeper Alexander Karlsson who could well be the best keeper in the league looking at his attributes.

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With the players at my disposal, this is the best tactic I can initially come up with as we prepare to take on 8th placed IFK Kumla in my first game in charge!

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I had only a couple of days with my players before our my first game in charge and it maybe came a little too early for my tactical approach to have any real impact as we fell to a 3-2 defeat. We were competitive though and there was plenty for me to be optimistic about going into our next few games.

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I've got myself into a Pentagon challenge with an obvious journeyman style to it

Thanks to custom databases I've so far been in Algeria and Saudi Arabia :)

I'll be following, as I always do!

My second game in charge was an absolute must win as we faced off against 12th placed Nordvarmlands FF. If we want to stay up this year, then anything less than victory here would be unacceptable!

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Despite leading 2-0 and being the much better side in the game, we couldn't get over the line and let the 2 goal cushion slip and have to settle for a single point which in our situation, simply isn't going to be good enough. As the games go by, we get closer to the drop and a win is desperately needed.

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Our defence has been very fragile in my first two games in charge and a large part of that is missing a natural left back (been playing a centre back there). However, that has now been rectified with the loan signing of Alexander Bengtsson who comes in on loan for the remainder of the season from Landvetter IS. Hopefully, this will sure things up at the back a little.

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Bengtsson went straight into the starting lineup for our next game against 5th placed Ahlafors IF, who came into the match on a 3 game winning streak! And they extended that to 4 wins in a row, by beating us here. We offered very little and were never really in the game. New man Bengtsson had a nightmare with a 5.9 rating performance, although nobody in the whole team scored higher than 6.6 (apart from my keeper who kept the score respectable).

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With just 6 games to go now, we are 8 points from safety and now we are getting into the territory of needing miracles to stay up!

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Our next game did see me get my first win as manager against Herrestads. Maybe a minor miracle is on the card, but we won't get ahead of ourselves for sure. This was easily our best performance since I took over though...totally dominant from start to finish....but we were helped out by the 16th minute sending off of Schoon which saw our opponents down to 10 men for most of the game.

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When we went 1-0 up in the 49th minute of our next match, I really thought we were going to do the unthinkable and make it back to back victories (it would have been unthinkable considering this team has only won 2 games all season!). However, in the end IK Gauthiod proved too strong for us and nicked the win in the 85th minute...gutting not to take a point as we matched our opponents for the 90 mins.

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Three of the four teams above us all won as well, which made it the worst weekend possible for us! We now sit 7 points from safety with just 4 games remaining and the great escape would now be the greatest escape ever if we somehow managed to pull it off!

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Especially as our last 4 games pit us against both the top 2 in the division!!

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It's a real shame that the excellent draw we got against the side at the top of the league probably isn't enough! But let's not underestimate just how good a point this was for us to get!

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With relegation now staring us in the face and probably the loss of my first job, I have at least got one thing out of my first role in football management and that is a new coaching badge as I start my studies for the National C License.

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It may be a case of simply trying to raise my own stock now (for my next job) and a 3-0 win in our next match against Grebbestads might just go a fair way to doing that. It's the biggest win of the club's season! With Klaivi Vukaj coming off the bench to score twice, it does make me wonder why I haven't been starting the striker up front?!

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I gave Vukaj a start in the next game and he scored again as we make it back to back wins by beating 4th placed Mjolby 2-0! When I took over the job here, the club had won just once all season and we have now won 3 of our last 5! Hopefully, this is all helping to raise my profile.

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Those back to back wins have incredibly given us the slimmest of chances to make the relegation playoff position which is 12th. We will go into the last game of the season playing 13th placed Yxhults IK and we need to win, hope that Nordvarmlands lose and somehow turn a 5 goal swing between the two results! The greatest escape of all time is still on my friends!!

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So it's crunch time as the last day of the season is now here. We will take on the side in 13th place and beating them will see us leapfrog them in the table. We then need Nordvarmlands FF to lose at home to 11th placed Grebbestads...the side we recently beat 3-0! On top of all that, we need a 5 goal swing at least! It's a lot to ask, but we are at least still in with a shot at this stage against all the odds.

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At half time, it wasn't going badly for us, but at the same time it wasn't going entirely to plan either. We had created 9 chances, but failed to find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes and we would need a much more prolific second half to get our part of the job done.

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Although, if things don't change in the other game, it doesn't matter what we do here, as Nordvarmlands are winning 1-0!

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Unfortunately, we couldn't make our dominance count in the second half either and our game ended in a bore draw to end the season.

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The only silver lining for us is that even if we had of won, it wouldn't have been enough as Nordvarmlands did hold on to their half time lead to win their game anyway.

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It confirms our final placing at the bottom of the table and relegation to the 5th tier. The task I took on just proved to be too much to ask in the end!

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With that relegation comes the termination of my contract and I will again be on the job market!

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Despite not being able to save Vanersborgs from relegation, I do feel I have done enough to show I can 'do' this management thing. I delivered 3 wins for the club in my 9 games in charge (when they had only won 1 all season prior to my arrival), went unbeaten in our last 4 games without conceding a single goal and held the league leaders (at the time) to a draw. On top of that, I am now studying for my first coaching badge and hopefully all of this will be ammunition for another club to invest in me as their new manager.

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However, my belief in my own achievements seemed to be misplaced and 3 months soon went by of applying for every job going, without getting a single interview!! Then all in the space of a few days, I was invited to meet with the board at a club called SK Super Nova Salaspils and on Christmas Day, they provide me with the gift of a job offer on £575 per week...looks like I'm moving to Latvia!

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So who are SK Super Nova Salaspils? Well, they have an angry star kicking a football as their logo! It looks suspiciously like some form of Simpsons character!

Again a relatively new football club formed in the year 2000, they play their football in the Optibet Virsliga, which is the top tier in Latvia!

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Yes, that's right ladies and only my second job role, I have joined a club in a division that gives a potential path to Champions League football!

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Although we won't get ahead of ourselves as the current season in Latvia has just ended and our side finished 9th and only just managed to stay up via the relegation playoff.

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And by the looks of things, they've never won a single trophy.

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The new season and my first competitive game in charge won't come until March, so I have plenty of time to get to know my squad, make some changes and implement my tactic on the side...all the things I didn't really have time to do at Vanersborgs. With regards to the current crop of players, nearly all of them are on pay as you play contracts so it will be easy to get rid of any dead wood, but then I have to be careful not to clear out players until I have replaced them with potentially better ones.

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The squad is a relatively big one and gives me plenty of options for setting up a formation to try in pre season when it comes around. The best player in the team that I need to desperately try to keep hold of and build the team around is 35 year old central midfielder, Olegs Laizans, who has 54 caps for the national side!

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Another Latvian international that I would like to keep here is Eduards Visnakovs, although I'll be looking for a better return from the striker next season as this year he only managed 4 goals in 22 appearances in the league.

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Both of the above are coming to the back end of their career, so it's nice to see some young talent in the squad in the form of 19 year old striker Algirdas Grazis as well, although I'm not sure if he even fits the profile of the sort of striker I like (I look for good work rate and a team player, which this guys has neither).

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So it's time to get to work at my new home. Although turning up on the first day in the job, I realise our 'stadium' is basically a running track with a football pitch in the middle of it and my office is a portacabin on the side!


I have a little, tiny, teeny bit of money to play with as I try to shape the squad over the next couple of months, but it is at least good to see my new club is financially stable with nearly £200k in the bank.

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Talking of shaping the squad, the first thing I'll have to do is win them over!!

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I've certainly got another daunting task on my hands!​
Shame how that first season went, but Latvia brings back good memories of FM19 and taking Rezeknes to the title and then Riga to the Champions League knockouts. Hope you have a better time than in Sweden.
Shame how that first season went, but Latvia brings back good memories of FM19 and taking Rezeknes to the title and then Riga to the Champions League knockouts. Hope you have a better time than in Sweden.

Never managed in Latvia so I'm looking forward to it. I think the job in Sweden just left me with too much to do in too short a space of time. Hopefully things will go better at Super Nova.

Looking ahead to the new season, the board have outlined their expectations and avoiding relegation will be seen as sufficient whilst nothing is expected of us in the cup.

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I will start the new season with my first coaching badge as well after completing my studies for the National C License.

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And my new employers have agreed to pay for me to get the next badge on the ladder as well!

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My first signing at my new club sees me add our second Nigerian player to the squad ranks. Akeem Latifu joins on a free transfer and immediately becomes our best centre back in the team. An addition I am really pleased with who strengthens our back line considerably.

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It was proving really difficult to lure decent players to the club. I don't know if that's because of my low standing as a manager, the club's low status in Latvian football or a mixture of the two. I did manage to bring a left back into the club, although he really isn't that great....welcome Kristians Rozentals who joins on a free from Grobinas.

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I needed to add a couple more wingers to the squad as I'll be looking to play a 4-3-3 formation and only had a couple of wide men in the team. The first to come in and bolster my options down both flanks is Olgerds Rascevskis who joins on loan from Valmiera for the season.

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Another soon followed in the form of 20 year old Roberts Melkis, this time on a permanent deal signing on a free from Liepaja. Again, not the most amazing looking player based on his attributes, but options are very limited and I'm kinda having to take what I can get right now.

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It left me one area to strengthen before the season starts and that was central midfield. I waited right up until transfer deadline day to get my new additions of which there were 2! The first was Romanian defensive midfielder Cristian Puscas who joins on a freebie. He is a big lad at 6ft 2" and offers us some determination and aggression in that role and he could be a big presence in protecting our back line.

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The second deadline day addition is a player that adds some real quality to the side. Yuro Coulibaly will be at the heart and soul of everything that goes through the centre of the pitch and can play all three of the centre mid roles that I have set up in my tactic! He's a fantastic addition right at last knockings before the transfer window closed.

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Talking of tactic, this is what I have settled on for the start of the season after some tinkering through the pre season friendlies. We are one of the weakest teams in the division, so I have opted for a cautious, counter attacking style of football, but with a fluid style of play looking for the team to defend and move forward as a unit rather than a structured approach that might see my players (who frankly are not that good) become disjointed.

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And if pre season is anything to go by, I might be on to something with this tactical approach. However, we do have to bare in mind I only played Latvian sides from the lower leagues, so was probably expected to win all of these games.

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The competitive stuff is about to get underway and our first game of the league campaign will be against Spartaks Jurmala who are predicted a 6th placed finish, so we could have had tougher starts to be fair. In terms of our own expectation, both the bookies and media predict us to finish 9th and we are a whopping 500/1 to win the title.

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After 3 months of officially settling in, I'm excited to be finally getting the new season started!​

My first game in charge of Super Nova ends in a win!! GET IN!! I know this is only the first game of the season, but this is a great achievement considering this team won just 5 games all of last season! A fantastic start to life in Latvia and I'm genuinely well chuffed to open the season with 3 points!

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We had a whole two week break before playing our second game of the season, which would be against Valmiera who also won their first game.

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With both clubs looking to open their season with back to back wins, it was us who sealed victory and maintain a 100% start! We weren't the better side, but who cares...we'll take it all day long!

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Eduards Visnakovs bagged a hat trick in the last game and that means he has equalled his goalscoring tally for last season already after just 2 games!

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Our first away game of the season produces our first defeat of the season at METTA. We held our own though and weren't completely outclassed and if we'd have taken anything from the game, it would have been perfectly justified.

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RFS were up next and that was a game we were expected to get nothing from. They are second favourites to win the league and the only realistic challengers to Riga for the title and they've made a decent start winning 3 of their opening 4.

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There was a massive gulf in class on show for everyone to see! We can at least take some heart from the fact we kept the score at 1-1 until the sending off...then it was just too much to ask to hold on!

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We were grateful to play much lesser opposition in our next game as we took on FS Jelgava, who are the only side in the league predicted to finish lower than us! And we took full advantage and cruised to an easy victory! Eduards Visnakovs bagged his second hat trick of the season and it's good to see our main striker doing well under my management after such a poor season last year.

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Riga were odds on favourites to win the title before the league kicked off this year, but their start has been anything but spectacular and they sit below us at this stage even after playing a game more!

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Despite that, they should still be comfortably beating us, as reflected by the odds.

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And they did with relative ease.

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However, it's still been an OK start for us with 9 points chalked up from our opening 6 fixtures. It's worth noting that this team only won 5 games all last season, so to have won 3 already is a bit of an achievement! We can also take a further positive from the fact that two of the three sides we haven't yet played yet are 8th and 9th in the table.

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Every point is precious when you're expected to be involved in a relegation battle at the back end of the season, so we'll take this one against Daugavpils even though I feel we should have won the game based on the quality of the chances we created.

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We beat Spartaks Jurmala on the opening day of the season, but they have really come on since then and only lost one other game from their opening 8 fixtures and came into their second game with us sitting 3rd in the league. But again they couldn't get the better of us as we pick up another valuable point. However, again we deserved to win the game on the balance of play, but I'm not going to be too bitter about it as we were staring defeat in the face right up until the 90th minute!

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Against Liepaja we were ******* rubbish defensively and they ran riot in front of goal. We must do better!

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We were better against 4th placed Auda and earned ourselves a credible point! We very nearly won the game in the 95th minute as well when Olgerds Rascebskis saw his 30 yard thunderbolt cannon off the crossbar!

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We have now gone 5 games without a win, but 3 draws in that run show that we are proving quite tough to beat, so I'm not too concerned at this point.

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And the players are gradually coming round to appointment now we are 10 games into the season, so hopefully that's going to improve our performances as well.

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The one player that is unhappy is Yuri Coulibaly who feels he isn't settling in Latvia and I refused to bring in another player from Ivory Coast to help him settle so he's thrown his dummy out the pram. He's been a massive disappointment so far anyway with an average rating of just 6.59 in the league and I'll be dropping him for the next game.

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With Coulibaly dropped, it didn't exactly do us any favours as we were battered by Valmiera in our next match. Possibly our worst performance of the season so far!

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On a more positive note, my reputation is slightly increased in the world of football management as I complete my second coaching badge in the space of a year.

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It has seen my attributes rise slightly and my reputation has now gone from obscure to national...we may be struggling right now as Super Nova manager with a squad that is nothing short of ****** awful, but surely (at least slightly) bigger things await.

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It was time to switch things up against RFS, so I changed things over to a flat 4-4-2 with route one football...just get it up to the target man by any means necessary, no fancy stuff here!

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But the new tactic made no difference as we were well and truly thrashed by the league leaders!

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And off the back of that result, I now have some serious unrest amongst the squad who are very quickly turning on me.

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Despite that, we did turn in a better team performance at home to METTA, although the game still ended in another defeat!

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We are struggling...there is no doubt of that! 8th place in the league and starting to become adrift of the teams above us. Luckily, there seems to be 2 sides that are terrible this year and that might be our saving grace, but right now it's not enjoyable being the manager of Super Nova. I'm struggling to get into this save at all at the moment :-(

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I said at the end of the last update that I was really struggling to get into this save and getting thumped in our next game by the worst team in the league was the last straw for me. All motivation for the save is gone and I want to find something long term now, so will return once I have found something that I think I can really get my teeth stuck into. Thanks to those who were following this and your comments and likes are much appreciated....I hope you'll pick up with me in my new save.

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